Saturday, 20 December 2008

A Great Idea

What do you do if you are running a newspaper and there is a comparatively quiet day, a tiny lull from the ever plummeting sterling and ever deepening recession? Well, here’s a great idea. Why not create some further bad news? Everyone likes bad news, right? And the country can always do with some more.

But how can you manufacture a bad story, run it on your front page and give everyone a headache in the process? Easy, take some high sounding fool in a suit and ask him to predict that things will actually get much worse. Predictions aren’t lies, exactly; they are a good honest stab at the truth. It doesn’t matter that the so called experts have a terrible track record and couldn’t predict a sandstorm in the desert. If it comes true, the expert can be treated as a quasi-divine sage, if it proves hopelessly amiss, well, most likely everyone will have forgotten the original prediction anyway.

I love it! But who do we use? Well, which area has consistently got their predictions wrong and proved utterly inept at managing risk? Hmm, what with politicians, bankers, economists, and financial regulators, there’s quite a large selection. Yes, it’s a tough one. But let’s go with a very senior banker, preferably one with a tie, waistcoat and glasses so everyone takes him more seriously.

He can spout the usual rubbish about house prices falling between 15% and 30% in the next couple of years. I mean with that margin of error he’s bound to be somewhere within the ball park. Then let’s all get very upset about his prediction and talk about it all the time and forget that, in fact, it’s only a silly forecast from someone who has no more (in fact, probably less) idea than you and me.

Ah, this is fantastic! But who can we use? Who, indeed? Wait, what about that bloke, John Varley, the Chief Executive of Barclays? Ok, Barclays invests much less in property than the other high street banks and so he doesn’t exactly know what he’s talking about. But never mind that. Do you think he’ll do it? Somebody, make the call...

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